Liberal energy plan leaves opponents green around the gills
By CATHY DOBSON, The Observer Dec 6 2011
Local renewable energy opponents jumped on the auditor general’s report Tuesday, saying it adds steam to their argument Ontario should back away from its Green Energy Act.
“The main problem with wind turbines is health concerns but there hasn’t been a lot of consideration given to the costs,” said Ann Towell, a member of the Dawn-Euphemia chapter of Wind Concerns Ontario.
“I think our group is thrilled the auditor general is pointing out the costs to taxpayers. It may mean people on the periphery take a look at the Green Energy Act again.”
Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter’s annual report estimated the Liberal’s green energy plan could drive up hydro bills 8% a year for the next five years.
He said wind and solar projects were fast-tracked without the usual oversight.
“There has been a lack of analysis that you’d normally find when you’re investing billions of dollars,” McCarter said.
Generous financial incentives such as the FIT (Feed-in-Tariff) system of subsidized power contracts may impact the energy bills of homeowners and businesses more than anticipated.
FIT has helped kickstart a number of renewable energy projects, but will cost $4.4 billion more than the previous renewable energy program, said McCarter.
As well, the intermittent nature of renewables means guaranteed FIT contracts will pay generators up to $225 million a year when they’re not producing power.
Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey called the auditor general’s report scathing.
“The McGuinty government’s expensive approach to energy, especially its rich FIT subsidies, permanent debt retirement charge and energy exports, is actively killing jobs in Ontario’s broader economy.”
Rather than create 50,000 green energy jobs, as the Liberal’s claimed, the Green Energy Act will fall short, according to McCarter. An estimated 30,000 of those jobs will be temporary construction work only.
“The auditor general has once again given this government a failing grade on his annual report card,” Bailey said. “What’s more, this report confirms what we in Sarnia-Lambton already know: the McGuinty government’s approach to energy is too expensive and is killing good jobs.”
Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan has been an outspoken critic of the legislation because it took decision-making authority away from municipalities.
“It’s nice to be green and it’s nice to be environmentally friendly, but the Green Energy Act was pushed through way too fast,” he said.
“Dalton McGuinty was so enthused about being first in the world with all this hype about being green, that no one saw all these problems until after it was passed,” McGugan said.
“Now we’ve got solar panels taking up our vacant lots on prime development land. It’s not right.”
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper agreed.
“I’m totally unhappy with the Green Energy Act and the loss of our rights,” he said. “I don’t think people would mind paying more for their hydro if the government did what it said it would do. But McGuinty’s math is all wrong. I don’t know what it’s going to take to open his eyes.”
In Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton beat incumbent MPP Maria Van Bommel in the last election in part because of the Liberal stand on renewable energy.
“The auditor general was very clear when he said that Dalton McGuinty has not followed normal due diligence processes and that a business case for the Green Energy investments has not been prepared,” McNaughton said.
Since McCarter’s report was released Monday, Energy Minister Chris Bentley acknowledged green power is pricey but said the province will save billions in health costs by putting an end to the use of coal.
“It costs money to stay in coal, $4 billion a year, plus the human suffering,” Bentley said.
FIT contracts are now being reviewed, he added.